Monday, February 26, 2018

Getting To Know Some Local Transgender Folks Before You Vote On Prop 1 On April 3

We are taught to think of gender as an either/or case of male or female.  It's just how you're born.

But we have lots of evidence that it's not that easy.  If it were, all men would have strong 'male' traits and women would all be 'feminine.'  But we know that's not how it is.  If we took all men, I'm guessing we'd get a bell shaped curve of 'masculinity' and 'femininity.'  A similar curve for women would overlap that for men.

Many cultures recognize the fluidity of gender and the fact that some people clearly do not fit the gender category their private parts seem to indicate.  A number have special roles for people who seem to carry both genders.

Many babies are born with ambiguous genitalia and doctors have traditionally decided what gender they should be right after birth, often with surgery to make the baby conform to the doctor's decision.

This is all relevant in Anchorage now because Jim Minnery  and the Alaska Family Council and friends have gotten Prop 1 onto Anchorage's April 3 local ballot.

So I want to post some video I made at a panel discussion last August here in Anchorage.  Mara Keisling, the Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, moderated this panel with three local transgender folks and two parents of transgender kids.

Here's a link to the ballot measure and explanations at Ballotopedia.  (I found that site easier to read than the Municipality's site on this.)

On first blush, I can understand the idea of women not wanting men to use the women's bathrooms, though since women don't use urinals, it's my understanding their public restrooms all have private stalls.  So that should be, for the most part, moot.  Locker rooms and showers are perhaps a different story. Or so the sponsors of Prop 1 would  tell you.  (Actually, they'll tell you public bathrooms are a problem.)

Current Anchorage law allows transgender folks to use the bathroom that they identify with.  No problems have been brought to the public's attention that I know of.  The number of transgender people in Anchorage is very small.  The problems the initiative's sponsor cite are all hypothetical. And unlikely. I doubt too many men will dress up like a woman just to spy on women in the women's restroom.  And they could do that now and it would be illegal if they weren't transgender and were there to spy on women.

I also understand, and am more sympathetic with, the opponents' argument.  I suspect their key objection is the initiative's essential denial of transgender identity.  Even the US military recognizes this, but Prop 1 would make the gender listed in someone's birth certificate the only thing that counts.  Here's a statement from (part of the Prop 1 campaign):
"In September of 2015, the Anchorage Assembly forced an ordinance upon residents that allows men to enter women’s spaces — public bathrooms, showers, locker rooms and changing facilities." 
I think this shows clearly that they deny the existence of transgender people.  There is nothing in the ordinance that allows 'men' into women's restrooms, only transgender people who identify as women.  I'm not trying to answer all the questions people have about transgender folks here.  I'm not that well-versed myself.  But I know that for a number of people, the physical gender parts don't always match the mental gender identity of people.  I also know that nobody in their right mind would claim to be transgender if they weren't.  There's far too much heartache and prejudice that comes with such an identity.   I'd also note that the Assembly passed the ordinance 9-2.  That's not even close.  That's not 'forcing.'  The representatives of the vast majority of Anchorage voted for the current ordinance.  If people were 'forced' they could have voted out people at the last Municipal election.

As both of the parents on this panel in the video say, 'before I had a transgender child, I really knew nothing about what the word means.'  My own knowledge, while probably more extensive than the average person's, is still sketchy, but I did post last August about my own education on this topic,  just before Mara Keisling moderated this panel.

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